Most expected France and Nigeria to progress from Group D and so it has proved. However, the routes taken by the two teams into the Round of 16 could not have been more different. The Golden Eaglets soared head and shoulders above the rest and helped themselves to maximum points. Les Bleuets, on the other hand, waited until the last 20 minutes of their final match before squeezing through in second spot.
Meanwhile, Yoichiro Kakitani could not conjure up a great escape for Japan, who failed to confound the pre-tournament predictions. Finally, full marks for bravery go to Haiti. Thrown in at the deep end on their first ever appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the minnows nevertheless depart with their heads held high, having plundered a draw against France and captured the imagination of an entire nation.
The tale of the teams
Nigeria: With three wins out of three, Nigeria are one of only two teams in the competition to finish the group phase without dropping a point. Powerful, quick and technically gifted, the African champs edged out France 2-1 in the opener before outclassing Japan 3-0 and crushing Haiti 4-1 in their final match. Having started as group favourites, the Golden Eaglets are now heavily backed to clinch the world title. We'll have to wait until 9 September to find out if their name is on the trophy.
France:Les Bleuets brought back uneasy memories as they stumbled into the second round. During the UEFA U-17 European Championship they made similarly heavy weather of qualification, finishing the group phase with an identical points tally: one defeat, a draw and a win from three matches. Having failed to play to their full potential against Nigeria and Haiti, Francois Blaquart's protégés nevertheless dug deep when it mattered in the crunch finale against Japan. Curiously enough, the Mini-Bleus route to qualification resembles that of their compatriots in the senior team during the 2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyTM, a route which would eventually led them all the way to the Final...
Japan: The Asian side could be forgiven for believing they are jinxed. During their last appearance at the world's showpiece U-17 tournament in 2001, they failed to progress beyond the first round, falling to - you guessed it - Nigeria and France. While they played a fluent, pacey and technical game, the Blue Samurais undoubtedly lacked a cutting edge in terms of physique. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining to Japan's early exit from Korea 2007: in Yoichiro Kakitani they have unearthed a sensational talent who will surely be knocking on the door of the senior team before too long.
Haiti: During their baptism of fire in this competition, the Caribbeans earned plaudits from the Korean public and respect from their rivals. Although guilty of defensive lapses at the end of the match against Japan, the Haitians deserved better than a 3-1 defeat. The same goes for their meeting with France, when a solitary point barely did justice to their gutsy performance. Outclassed by Nigeria in their final match, Jean Yves Labaze's charges have nevertheless done their nation proud and can return home with their heads aloft.
Moments to savour
• The mazy dribble by Nigeria's King Osanga against France. The striker left five defenders in his wake before feeding the ball to Macauley Chrisantus, only to see his prodded effort hit the crossbar.
• The guile and trickery of Nigerian number 10 Rabiu Ibrahim, who has already attracted comparisons with the nation's idol, Augustine 'Jay Jay' Okocha.
• The power and accuracy of Yoichiro Kakitani's sublime effort against France: having spotted the French goalkeeper off his line from the centre circle, the precocious Japanese striker launched a howitzer of a shot to score one of the goals of the tournament.
• The ecstatic and delirious celebrations of Emmanuel Riviere after bagging the winning goal for France against Japan: a pirouette which suggests he could make it as an Olympic gymnast if his professional football career fails to take off.
The numbers game
Besides being Korea 2007's leading goalscorer with five goals from three matches, Nigeria's Macauley Chrisantus wrote himself into history by netting the competition's 100th goal against Haiti. In doing so he also became the first player to score in every match of the group phase.
The closing remarks
"We've done well to win our three matches because we were up against tricky opposition. The lads got the message that there were no easy matches in this group. I hope we continue to score plenty of goals right through the tournament, as nothing less will do if we want to become world champions," Yemi Tella, Nigeria head coach.